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There are so many little things you can do to make your computer more secure. In fact, many of the little things are set to be automatic by default. These things go a long way in protecting your system and your data from malware and viruses, but also from ransomware attacks like WannaCry and Petya.

First, confirm that you are always getting your operating system (OS) updates. A lack of OS updates has been known to be the cause of recent ransomware attacks, among other serious problems. Windows OSes vary in exactly where you find Windows Updates, but they are typically in Windows Settings. Once you open Settings, just type in “update” in the search box. Make sure that you always allow Windows to automatically download and install updates when they are available. This will ensure that you have the latest security patches and may prevent possible compromises due to any vulnerabilities. Also, see that you are getting Microsoft Updates so Office applications will be updated, as well.

Verify your third-party applications, like Adobe, browsers, etc., are set to get their automatic updates. Most of these applications have automatic updating set as the default and should not be changed by the user. For instance, Adobe’s Creative Cloud is configured to “Always keep Creative Cloud desktop up to date” by default. This is a huge benefit because you no longer have to remember to check for the updates yourself, and it helps protect the applications from known vulnerabilities. Check the apps area of the system tray in the lower right corner of your screen to see if you have any alerts associated with these apps and make necessary changes if you do.

If you are requesting third-party application updates via a download, please be very cautious and uncheck anything that is not the actual application update. Things like the Ask Toolbar and the Yahoo! Toolbar are often checked and you do not want them to be installed. The Ask Toolbar, in particular, is very difficult to remove once you have installed it.

In addition to getting your OS and application updates, it is very important to check that Windows Defender is automatically updating and running to scan for viruses, spyware, and other malware. Again, Windows OSes vary in how to find Defender’s settings, but you can go to Windows Settings and search for Defender, or look for the Defender shield in the system tray in the bottom right corner of your screen. If you ever have concerns that you may have an infection, you should open Defender and run an advanced scan.

And lastly, you should verify that Malwarebytes is getting automatically updated. You can find the Malwarebytes icon in the system tray, then right-click and choose “Check for Updates” to make sure you have the most recent database version. You should also regularly run Malwarebytes to ensure your system is not infected with malware. Right-click on the icon in the system tray and choose “Start Scanner” to run a scan. It is wise to perform a full scan from time to time, as well.

By performing these basic security tasks, in addition to doing regular backups, you can go a long way in protecting the Institute’s assets and data. If you need help with resetting your OS and third-party applications update preferences, please call the OIT HelpDesk at (865) 974-9900.